MANILA, PHILIPPINES - Senior justices, Attorney Generals, prosecutors, wildlife and environment police, customs officers and government enforcement experts are gathering for a three-day symposium in Bangkok to identify actions to combat wildlife crime in Asia.

"Wildlife crime destroys biodiversity, denies governments billions of dollars in revenue, prevents communities obtaining sustainable livelihoods, and undermines law enforcement and national security. It also poses serious threats to health as the transport of wildlife and their products can spread disease," Bruce Davis, Asian Development Bank (ADB) Vice President of Administration and Corporate Management said in opening remarks made yesterday at the meeting.

The illegal wildlife trade is an enormous challenge for Asia and the rest of the world. It is a lucrative business for sophisticated transnational organized crime groups operating across multiple regions in the world.

Illegal wildlife, including marine life, may be sourced from within Asia, and also comes into Asia from other continents. Significant volumes of illegal products such as ivory and rhino horn are transported regularly from Africa to Asia. Sharks and rays are also sourced from Latin America for consumption in Asia.

More than 120 representatives from a wide range of civil society organizations, leading environmental groups, intergovernmental organizations, multilateral development banks including the African Development Bank and the World Bank, and United Nations agencies are supporting partners of the ADB-organized event at the Queen Sikirit National Convention Center, which ends tomorrow.

The symposium on Combating Wildlife Crime, organized alongside the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is the first forum collectively attended by high level justice and law enforcement officers and civil society focusing on wildlife crime.

CITES is an international agreement between governments that aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild. Some 178 countries have signed the treaty, including many in Asia and the Pacific.

"It is crucial that the response to transnational organized wildlife and forest crime focuses on the entire enforcement chain, and that judges, prosecutors and government law enforcement organizations are armed with tools to help combat this serious crime. In support of this event hosted by the ADB, the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) is delivering specialized technical training on effective investigative techniques used to combat crime in other areas to help strengthen wildlife law enforcement responses," said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of CITES.

ADB is supporting work in protecting biodiversity and preventing the illegal wildlife trade by promoting regional cooperation to strengthen the management and sustainable use of large-scale ecosystems; site-level investments and technical assistance to improve the management of protected areas; and by promoting environmental justice by working with Chief Justices and senior judiciary to strengthen enforcement.

A follow-up technical assistance, which would assist CITES member countries in strengthening law and enforcement systems to help protect wildlife and prevent wildlife crime, is being prepared by ADB. This assistance will build upon the outcomes of this event.

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